Sweet Lou is Back!


Back to the Future is one of my favorite movies and the Cincinnati Reds are taking a page out of the Robert Zemeckis classic by bringing back ‘Sweet’ Lou Piniella to the organization for the first time since 1992. Today, the Reds have hired Piniella as senior advisor to baseball operations. That’s right, 25 years later and we have some real baseball scouting and development brain trust back in charge.

Think about it. Where ever Piniella has gone in development phases of an organization from Cincinnati to Seattle to Tampa Bay, he has brought his contacts, scouts, and baseball operations networking with him. What’s left in the wake has been a solid foundation of developing quality baseball players. Only once with the Chicago Cubs has he went into a Free Agent splurging, let’s buy a championship type situation. That’s not Lou Piniella baseball.

This might be the best move Bob Castellini has ever made. I would note that Castellini talked to Piniella back in 2006 about coming back as special advisor. Piniella ultimately wasn’t convinced and decided to take a year off from baseball. What could’ve been had ‘Sweet Lou’ decided to come back at that point and taken over for then Reds Manager Jerry Narron the following year? No Dusty Baker ball? Imagine Piniella guiding the young talented core of Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce, Edwin Encarnacion, Johnny Cueto, and Homer Bailey from 2008-now while adding his chosen talent? Think Hal Morris and Randy Myers. “Wow” is all I have to say.

Piniella spent 18 seasons playing in the big leagues with the Indians, Orioles, Royals, and Yankees. Winning Rookie of the Year in 1969 and earning an All-Star nod in 1972 with the Royals. Being a favorite of George Steinbrenner, the late Yankees owner, Lou retired as a Yankee in 1984 and took over as Manager from 1986-1989 compiling a 224-193 record.

On November 3rd, 1989 Piniella was named Reds Manager and won the 1990 World Series in his first year taking over for Pete Rose. After going 255-231 over 3 years with the Reds, Piniella and then owner Marge Schott failed to come to a contract agreement over dinner after the 1992 season. The Seattle Mariners then scooped him up drastically sending the 2 baseball organizations on opposite paths.

Seattle went from a 64-98 team to 82-80 in Piniella’s first season as Manager. He led the Mariners to the American League Championship Series in 1995 and 2001, winning AL Manager of the Year both years, and the 2001 team tied the major-league record for most wins in a season with 116. The Mariners ultimately won 3 American League West titles in 10 years under Piniella’s franchise transformation.

From 2003-2005, Piniella managed his hometown Tampa Bay Rays, posting a 200-285 record before spending 2007-2010 with the Cubs at a 316-293 record, winning 2008 NL Manager of the Year before retiring. He spent 2011 with the San Francsico Giants as a special consultant to their front office.

What does this all mean for the current state of Cincinnati Baseball? It means Lou Piniella will be back in Spring Training with the Reds. His impact and persona will be felt immediately. This is the first time this off-season that you can actually say that the Reds are moving in the right direction. It all starts at the top and this is a great first step. Just 11 years late.